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Child Support: Special & Extraordinary Expenses

In Texas, parents’ child support obligations are largely determined according to the Texas child support guidelines. These guidelines specify the types of income that are relevant for purposes of determining parents’ financial obligations, and they apply a “percentage of income” formula to arrive at an appropriate monthly child support payment.

However, while the guidelines are intended to cover most typical child-related expenses, they also provide for flexibility under appropriate circumstances. Section 154.123(b) of the Texas Family Law Code lists 17 factors which may justify parents deviating from the standard guidelines calculation. One of these factors is the need to address, “special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parties or the child.”

What are Special & Extraordinary Expenses for Purposes of Child Support?

Special and extraordinary expenses are those which fall outside of the traditional purposes of child support, which are to meet the basic daily needs of the couple’s children. This incudes costs such as food, clothing, health insurance, routine medical and dental care, and child-related transportation expenses. Any costs that fall outside of these types of basic categories can potentially qualify as “special or extraordinary” under Texas law. For example, special and extraordinary expenses may include:

  • Treatment for chronic diseases
  • Mental health counseling
  • Private education
  • Tutoring
  • Extracurricular school activities
  • Travel-intensive sports and other activities

Importantly, Section 154.123(b) contemplates special and extraordinary expenses of “the parties or the child.” Here, “the parties” refers to the parents. If one or both parents has a medical condition that creates a significant financial burden and makes it untenable for him or her to pay child support according to the guidelines, this can potentially justify a deviation from the ordinary guidelines calculation as well.

Dealing With Special & Extraordinary Expenses During Your Separation or Divorce

When dealing with special and extraordinary expenses during a separation or divorce, the best way to establish child support is typically through informal out-of-court negotiations. Separating and divorcing parents have significant flexibility to craft child support payments that meet their unique needs; and, when prepared with the help of experienced McKinney family lawyers, negotiated child support plans can be structured in order to obtain court approval. At Nordhaus Walpole, PLLC, we have significant experience helping parents establish child support obligations in McKinney, TX. We can help you explore your options, and we can make sure your obligation to pay (or right to receive) child support takes into consideration the relevant provisions of the Texas Family Law Code.

What About College Tuition and Expenses?

In Texas, child support covers children’s expenses until they reach age 18 (in most cases). As a result, it generally does not cover college tuition and expenses. For information about dealing with college costs as an issue separate from calculating child support, you can read: How Should I Address My Children’s College Costs in My Divorce?

Speak With the McKinney Family Lawyers at Nordhaus Walpole, PLLC

If you have questions about child support and would like to speak with an attorney, we encourage you to contact us for a complimentary initial consultation. To speak with our experienced McKinney family lawyers in confidence, please call (214) 726-1450 or get in touch online today.


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